Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Saga of Lessons.

Otherwise known as the Saga of D, part two.

The thing about Depression-with-a-capital-D, which, in my modest view, means you take pills, you see doctors, your life is adversely affected beyond feeling gloomy, is just that: you take pills, you see doctors, your life is adversely affected. It's a disease, an affliction, a condition. Point being, I'm sick, and I always will be sick--and fortunately it's manageable, but the mere managing can be just as rough.

Here's a slew of similes for you to chew up: it's like mono. Mono never goes away, but you don't wake up with a sore throat every day. It's like diabetes; you have to monitor yourself. It's like epilepsy because you have fits.

And when those fits occur--and they will--there's very little you can do except cram a spoon between your teeth and hope you don't swallow your tongue.

Some more bad similes: it's a rip tide because you can't fight it. It's like quicksand in the same way. And it's like vomiting, because you medically can't not vomit--there's no such thing as kind of vomiting (at least according to the sagely Dr. Snickerdoodle, otherwise known as brother-in-med-school). You're either hurling your guts up or you're not.

What this looks like to a depressed person is this: uncontrollable crying. Feeling about as fragile as the proverbial eggshell. Not being able to move. Thoughts that yell at each other to a pitch that becomes sheer noise, and logic that whirls--because you've trained your brain to do this, and you can teach yourself otherwise, but there will still be days that you forget all your lessons and regress.

When you're trying to get over an infection or a cold, you wake up and check your vitals: throat sore? nose clogged? aches?

When you're living depressed, you do the same, only you think: can I do this today? And this is simply getting out of bed. Then problems create problems--you sleep through work, your boss chides you, you're overly sensitive so a totally justified criticism becomes a personal attack, which you deserve--or so you think, because you think so insanely little of yourself that you deserve all the shit the world can dish out and then some--because you are a terrible person and wasting everyone's oxygen and nobody actually likes you, it's a vast conspiracy of politeness, and really, what's the point anyway, you've fucked it up all beyond all hope of repair anyway but dying is too tough so just go back to bed and stay there.

Pretty much every day this past week has been like this for me.

I'm hollering because last night, when the police man asked me from the other side of the glass if I had any conditions, I told him I was depressed.

And he said, "Aren't we all," and kept on with his paperwork.

So there's two lessons for you and a thousand for me in this. The first is that depression sucks, it's ugly, it's unavoidable, and cavalierly suggesting to a hysterical girl who's handcuffed to a wall that everyone is depressed isn't just a bad idea, it's plain wrong. I'm not asking for sympathy or pity or even understanding. I know that I fought a diagnosis forever because we have some collective myth that equates the word depression with simply feeling bad, and anyone worth their snuff can dig out of their own hole, right? "I'm depressed" means "I'm feeling sorry for myself and having a crummy day."

False, says I!

The second is this, and if I ever wanted to use this blog as a platform, now's the time--though I debated for a long while whether publicizing this would have any other benefit besides consoling me (because if it's an anecdote it's no longer a tragedy, right!?)--but hell's bells, here goes.

Don't drink and drive.

(So many d's!)

I was not drunk. I'd had three beers. I've been drunk before, and this was not it. But I also had an expired registration and a busted headlight and a lead foot on the gas pedal because a certain beast had neither had his dinner nor been let out to pee in about, oh, ten hours.

I have been crying so much lately that when the officer's car lights started blinking, I was dry-eyed. As I was when he made me walk and count and balance on one fucking foot and breathalyzed me, again, all of a block and a half from my front door.

When he handcuffed me in the passenger seat of the cruiser, though, it started, and continued all the way to the station, where I was walked into a plain and terrible room. He sat me on a stool. He asked if I was right or left handed.

"Right," I said, and he hooked my left wrist to the wall.

And it kept going as I exhausted every number in my phone searching for the one sober soul in Wilmington still awake at 2:30 who could come sign me out and take my pathetic ass home.

To say it took forever was an understatement, but you know all the cliches: the chummy other cops, "how're the wife n' kids" as you're sitting there, humiliated beyond belief, shocked, any buzz you may have had evaporated, and the slow paperwork, the ambling, all while you're sitting there with your hand stuck to the wall.

And I was angry and shocked and decidedly unhappy and thinking psychotic thoughts, but I kept quiet, and after eight hundred years and seventeen months and a few hours more, they let me go.

Even though my license is gone for at least a month and I've got attorney bills to pay, there were a lot of miracles in the whole mess. I called everyone--my friends, my co-workers, my boss--and, in my catastrophizing mind thought I'm going to have to sleep in jail because I have no friends. But, of course, this is crazy person thinking, and not only was my sober signer there, but also the girl I'd gotten in touch with who got in touch with her and--and!--another friend who'd called the station back and somehow deduced that Little Rachel was in the slammer.

In short, they came through, and there was a fucking committee of friendship standing outside in the cold waiting for me. Not only did they save me the unforgettable shame that would've been my boss driving me home (he would have, I know, but thank god the old fart was asleep), but it made me realize what a hugely distorted conclusion I'd made earlier. You don't stand in the cold in the middle of nowhere dealing with jackass law enforcers out of simple courtesy. That's just fact.

But this is the bigger one and the one you should pay attention to: I was two blocks from my house. I felt in control. My car is intact--albeit two blocks away--and my scarred psyche and your waning attention span are the only casualties of this whole shitshow.

It could have very, very easily been otherwise.

Which was what my family kept repeating when I broke the news today, all of them knowing that I'm gonna give myself more hell than the three of them combined could: no one was hurt. And we all know--you and me and my folks and everybody else--that there have been too many times when I was in worse states and didn't get caught. It's miraculous that when I did, it was last night, after three innocent beers and not, oh, say, nights of whiskey. And you've had them too.

Are you paying attention so far? Here's what we've learned: a) depression is a bitch. b) don't steer after beer. (I just came up with that!)

Here's what I learned:

Three beers is what I would have once called a nice, semi-buzzed limit. Three beers used to work when I was 45 pounds heavier, but also when I hadn't forgone dinner and slept til three out of paralyzing misery and wasn't, well, sick.

I have got to start taking care of myself. I know, if I'd eaten, that little number on the breathalyzer screen would have been lower. And it wasn't self-denial, it's not anorexia--I just didn't eat. My doctor told me this: "You don't have an eating disorder, but your eating is certainly disordered."

And that's true--and so is my laundry, and my sleeping habits, and how I write, and just about everything.

Another D, Disorder. And another: Determined, as in how I am about how I've got to go on--harder, better, faster, stronger!

Both my parents told me, at the utmost least, it'd make a good story. I hope so.

Go forth, young readers, and be sober and mobile! May you learn from my mistakes. And may you also please give me a ride.


  1. ...this was an amazing blog post. Just so you know. And PS, my attention did not wane.

    So glad you're safe. And I would have given you a ride, too. :) Miss you!

  2. Ditto everything Erica said, and more. Because, you know, I'm actually here in Wilmington. Plus, we have all been in some state where we need help and are embarrassed and can't do it ourselves. I have stories. And yes, the stories are a lot easier to tell than to live through. I know. Hang in there. xo